Throughout our lifetime, someone at some point will stress to us the importance of proofreading. It builds trust with the reader and helps bring credibility to your work. With that being said, it’s completely natural to make mistakes when writing. Those mistakes can be harder to identify if the typo is a real word, such as using “sting” instead of “string” or the confusion of whether to use “they’re” instead of “their.” Luckily, most writing software includes spellcheck and grammar which will catch most mistakes. Unluckily, minor mistakes may go unnoticed which can dramatically change the dynamic of the sentence if not caught before being published. Here are my top 4 proofreading strategies for better writing.
1. Read your work aloud
Start by simply reading what you wrote out loud. People tend to slow down when they read aloud because it physically makes them say each word from start to finish. When they don’t read out loud, it’s easier to skip over words and start to summarize instead of checking for errors. If you hear something that doesn’t sound right, check to see if it can be modified.
2. Use an object
As a child, I was taught to use the eraser of my pencil to point at/underline each word as I read along. Any object that you can use as a pointer can create the same results. If pointing isn’t your style, use a note card and read one word at a time while covering up the following words. Scoot the note card along as you go. Similar to reading aloud, this strategy helps you process each individual word before moving on to the next, which can make any errors stand out.
3. Print off a hard copy
Your eyes have adjusted to reading your work on the digital screen. Printing it out and proofreading a physical copy can reset your eyes to discover mistakes you didn’t notice at first. It also gives you the opportunity to make edits directly to the paper. Don’t forget to adjust the digital copy to match your new edits!
4. Peer edit
Two pairs of eyes are always better than one. Once you feel like you’ve checked your work for all mistakes, have a friend, coworker, family member, etc. go through and see if they can find further errors you might have missed. At this point, you’ve probably read your work numerous times, so let those fresh pair of eyes take a gander.